This spring and summer sure are drastically different than last year’s. Brrrr. I wish there had been a happy medium between the two summers. It has definitely affected what we can harvest and when. This time of year is always my favorite because I get to harvest not only all of the wild spring foods, but I also get to harvest flowers from people’s yards. I’m slowly growing my list of yards to harvest from in Juneau. I had a pretty large list in Sitka. I still get calls from people there letting me know their honeysuckle, lilacs or roses are ready.
Here, in Juneau, I live in a tiny house that doesn’t have a real yard, so I can’t grow rose bushes, honeysuckles and lilac trees. Instead you may find me knocking on your door or putting out a Facebook post in a group somewhere looking for flowers. Of all the flowers lilacs are my favorite. They are my favorite because they remind me of my Great-Grandma Betty. Many of us have a smell that can transport us back in time to a variety of memories.
For me that smell is lilacs. I was maybe 3 or 4 years old when Grandma Betty gave me my first taste of lilac syrup. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the scent of the lilacs, the dip of the soup spoon and my grandmother’s hand under it as she gave me a taste. Every time I smell a lilac I am instantly a child again.
Lilacs have such a short time of blooming, therefore you have to harvest them right after they fully bloom. Most edible flowers are best harvested in the early morning or evening on a dry day. There’s not much of a chance of that this year. Don’t miss out and wait for a dry day. Harvest on a rainy day anyways. You have to be prepared to harvest and make the syrup on the same day you harvest the flowers or you can make infused water and freeze it in Ziploc bags until you are ready to make the syrup later. The petals won’t last long, so it is best to make it fresh. The recipe I’m going to share with you can be used with a variety of edible flowers with lovely flavors such as roses, honeysuckle (some stems are poisonous), nasturtiums, elderberry flowers (stems are poisonous), Labrador tea flowers, and violets.
There are two main ways I make syrup. You can infuse water with petals first by bringing it to a boil and then simmering on low for 10 minutes, and make the syrup later by adding the sugar after the petals are strained from the water. This allows for you to filter out all the bits without a sticky mess, or you can cook it all together and filter it out after. The following instructions are for putting it all together in one pot.
• Remove the lilac flowers from the stems.
• Place sugar and water in a large stock pot. Simmer sugar and water mixture until sugar dissolves. Turn off heat.
• Place the lilac flowers in the pot and stir. Let the flowers sit in the dissolved sugar mixture for a couple of hours and the mixture will absorb the scent of the flowers.
• Pour the syrup through a cheese cloth or strainer to remove the flowers. Heat it up again, until it begins to simmer. Pour the liquid into sterilized canning jars, leaving about a half inch of head space. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel and place sterilized lids and rings on jars. Place in a boiling hot water bath for 10 minutes. Now you have syrup you can enjoy this winter.
• Remove jars from the canner and place jars on a towel on the kitchen counter to cool. Lids will make a popping noise when they seal. If in a couple of hours, the lid isn’t flat and sealed, then place the jars in the fridge to use over the next couple of weeks. Sealed jars can be stored to be enjoyed in winter to reminisce on the past spring while awaiting the next spring.
How to enjoy your syrup
This recipe can be adapted in a variety of ways. You can use different edible flowers or different types of sweeteners. If it is too fragrant for you, then use fewer petals in the next batch. If you want more flavor, then add more petals. Please make sure the flowers you are using are edible flowers because some flowers can be poisonous.
This year, we will also be making some batches of dandelion, honeysuckle and rose syrups next. What’s fun about making these syrups is that they are easy to make with young people. It’s fun to get out of the house and pick petals whether you have kids or you are a kid at heart.
Remember you can simply double, triple or quadruple the recipes for larger batches. The best part about making large batches is that you get to gift some of the yummy goodness to your friends and family. If you take the time to make this with the young people in your life, you may just set seeds that last a lifetime in the next generation who will then be sharing with others in 40 years.
I like to think Great-Grandma Betty must have known she was setting lifelong memories in me. Teaching me to be a steward of this land 1 petal at a time. So, from my great-grandma to you, enjoy this beautiful place with the people you love while making memories that may be carried far into the future.
Simple syrup recipe
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 – 2 cups of lilac flowers, stems and green parts removed/ The more flower petals you use the more flavorful it will be. Don’t sweat it if you get a few green parts in it.
5-8 blueberries, for color — or a few more if you desire.
This recipe will last about two weeks in your fridge unless you can it in a water bath to store it for later.
Thicker syrup recipe
1 cup of water
2 cups of sugar
1-2 cups of lilac flowers (The more flower petals you use the more flavorful it will be. Don’t sweat it if you get a few green parts in it.)
This recipe will last for months in your fridge unless you can it in a water bath to store it for later.